The Day I Almost Quit – Day 2 on the JMT

Today, I almost quit the JMT.  I never thought I’d say that, but for the first time in my backpacking history, I hit a backpacking low.  So many things ran through my mind.  “Why am I out here?”  “How fast can I get out of here?”  “Why the F#*k are there so many suncups?”  “Why the F#*k won’t my GPS update?”  “Is there a speakeasy bar hidden out here?  I really need a drink right about now.”  Yes, so many questions, yet I wasn’t getting a lot of answers.  I came out here for answers… but the mountains are quiet.  I’ll have to figure this out for myself.  I’m getting ahead of the story though.  How did I get to this point?  Am I actually quitting?  Well, let me start from the beginning.  Don’t all good stories start out that way?


The Best Sleep Ever!

Last night I slept like a baby.  Normally I toss and turn all night, but I didn’t wake up once this time.  Now that I say that, I wonder why people say that they slept like a baby.  None of my kids slept through the night.  They tossed, turned, cried, ate, and cried some more.  Gah!  Those were NOT the good old days.  LOL!  Ok, so I take it back.  I did not sleep like a baby.  Hmmmm… how about this?   I slept like a mannequin auditioning for a DreamCloud mattress commercial.  Or rather I slept like my fiance, David, blaring a symphony of tunes that could have challenged a bear to a snoring contest, leaving the forest creatures bewildered as they witnessed an epic battle of ear-splitting chorus between man and beast.

Best Sleep Ever!!!

My Cozy Home Away From Home – Hammock Bliss

Either way you look at it, last night was amazing!  I even slept in longer than if I was at home.  I’m not sure if this was because of all the fluffy goodness I was wrapped in, the exhaustion from the hike, or the Advil PM I took.  I will say that I’m always exhausted after a long hike, and I always take Advil PM after hiking.  That must mean accolades should be given to all the fluffy goodness of my new quilt from Trailheadz, my new Apex Torrid jacket and pants, and my amazing new pillow from Big Agnes (sorry, it’s discontinued).  Sorry, I know that sounds like a commercial, but I like to give credit where credit is due.  My hat’s off to you!  You can read more about my gear on Gear Addiction post.

Starting The Day Off Right With Breakfast

These Feet Are Ready To Rock and Roll

Starting the Day Off Right

After my amazing beauty sleep, I had a breakfast of strawberry granola cereal with milk and packed up camp. Time to head out on the trail again.  Today is going to be a great day!  It’s always hard for me when I first get going in the morning but the trail wasn’t nearly as bad today as it was the day before.  I was climbing elevation, yes, but I wasn’t climbing stairs (AKA The Stairway to Heaven).  That is something to celebrate for sure.  There were lots of snow plants on the trail today.  I love them!  They are so intricately designed with intertwining ribbons brightly colored in shades of red and pink.  Nestled in a sea of browns and greens, snow plants seem so out of place, like plants from another planet that extraterrestrial beings left here as a gift for humans to enjoy.

Snow Plants On The John Muir Trail

Deer On The John Muir Trail

The Deer

Further up the trail, I came upon a deer that was eating flowers off of a bush. I thought she was going to run away instantly, but surprisingly, she remained calm, eating her breakfast while I walked toward her.  As I drew nearer to the magnificent creature, reaching within ten feet, she ultimately chose to locate a more secluded spot for her meal, acknowledging my growing proximity.  “Goodbye, deer!  I hope you have a wonderful day!”  At this point it’s strange to think that I would soon want to quit the JMT.

Sooty Grouse On The John Muir Trail

The Sooty Grouse

Further on down the trail, I saw a large bird that resembled a miniature turkey. I’m not sure what it was. I’ll have to Google it when I get home.  Maybe it was a finch?  I don’t even know what a finch would look like, but if I was to imagine a finch… this is what I would imagine.  I was wrong though.  After Googling (Google is your friend), this bird appears to be a Sooty Grouse.  Specifically, this particular bird was definitely a male as shown by its majestic tail feathers.  Later I came upon his lady friends, looking much more understated in their shades of cream and brown mixing in with the forest floor.  I find it interesting that in the animal world, the men seem to be the flamboyant ones, yet with the human species, typically you find it the other way around.  I wonder why that is?

It was so peaceful out there, and I was happy to be out on the trail again.  After months of being away, I had forgotten all of the details.  The sights, the sounds, the smells… they were all flooding me with a peaceful tranquillity that my body craved.  I missed my drug of choice and had forgotten just how good she could make me feel.  Why can’t every day be like this?

Views Of The Sierras On The Trail Up To Clouds Rest

Beautiful Succulents On The Rock Face Up To Clouds Rest

We’ve Got Snow On The John Muir Trail! This Is Only The Beginning.

We’ve Got Snow!

Around the bend, I saw snow ahead.  Snow!  There’s snow!  I was balls dripping hot (as I imagine balls dripping hot would be since titty dripping hot just doesn’t have quite the same ring) from the climb.  I ached to lay in the snow and soak up all of its cool moisture, but I didn’t.  Instead, I took lots of pictures (as I always do) and rubbed clumps of it on my hands and face.  I love you snow!  When hiking, all things cool are my friend… or so I thought.  Little did I know this would be the start of something that was going to take away from the happiness on the trail.  Little did I know this was the start of the day I almost quit the JMT.

First Steps On The Cool White Snow Cover Over The John Muir Trail.

When Snow Becomes Too Much Snow

Very quickly I began to realize that it is hard to stay on the trail when covered in snow; even if only just a little.  It wasn’t that bad at first. I would only lose the path for a second and then soon find it again.  At this point, there were only patches of the white glistening winter cover, yet as I continued, the patches became more frequent.  As I closed into about .3 miles away from the top of Clouds Rest, the landscape began to change.  No longer did dirt cover the forest floor.  Instead, it was replaced with a thick winter coat; a winter wonderland.

First Time Wearing Microspikes On The John Muir Trail

Time for Microspikes

I paused to put on my microspikes.  When planning this leg of the trip, I hadn’t anticipated snow this early on, so unfortunately, my microspikes were packed at the very bottom of my backpack.  I unloaded my bear can, unpacked my hammock, out came my clothes bag, and then my quilt.  There at the very bottom of my bag were my microspikes.  These would help me with the final climb to the top.  I could tell the effort needed to traverse the snow was draining my energy a lot faster than it was before.  Each step had to be carefully calculated to keep from slipping and landing flat on my face.  I trekked on though.  I was so close.

The Final Climb Up To Clouds Rest

I Love Looking For Geodetic Survey Markers! This Is The Top Of Clouds Rest.

Mission Complete! I’ve conquered Clouds Rest. Half Dome Is In The Background.

Clouds Rest

At the base of Clouds Rest, I removed my microspikes for there was no snow leading up to the very top of the mountain.  It was at that moment that I noticed someone behind me.  Where did he come from?  He was gaining on me pretty quickly, but I was determined to reach the top first.  Why this was important, I don’t know.  I guess after working so hard, I just wanted the view for myself.  We ended up reaching the top at pretty much the same time, both exhausted, but in awe of all that surrounded us.  I had never seen a view so beautiful.   You could see for miles.  I could see Half Dome and Tenaya Lake.  All of the mountains and snow caps wrapped around the horizon and the waterfalls were raging from afar. What a sight to see and what a beautiful spot for lunch.

Beware! The Marmots Will Steal Your Food On The John Muir Trail

The Marmots

The marmot must have been waiting for us, or at least I thought it was only one.  As he scurried off I later noticed that there was actually a whole family of them.  They were very curious and hoping that maybe we would throw them a snack.  While focused on my food, the little scavengers would creep up behind me with the plan to grab and run if a snack suddenly came within reach.  Sorry little buddies.  I wish I could help.  I know you’re better off finding food on your own.

The Bus Traveling Duo

Soon, another couple summitted to the peak of Clouds Rest.  We all talked for a bit as we took in the view and ate our lunches.  The couple was embarking on a road trip around the United States. This was just one of their pitstops to climb Half Dome and Clouds Rest.  I was intrigued talking with them since David and I have the same dream of traveling as far as we can in an RV or bus home.  The couple said it took them a year to build out their short bus conversion instead of the six months they had originally planned.  I wish I could have talked to them longer about their travels and how they completed their bus construction.  It did spark my fire to get started on our future plans though.  Yet another adventure to look forward to.

The New York Day Hiker

The man that had originally summitted at the same time as me was on a trip from New York.  He was exploring California and planned to hike all the way from Happy Isles up to Clouds Rest and back in one day.  The thought exhausted me.  I need to exercise more.  There is no way I could do that in a single day.  I will say that his tiny pack was definitely a lot lighter than the behemoth that I carried on my back.  As he looked at my bear can which I stated contained all of my food for the trip, he offered me fruit and chocolate to make sure I didn’t starve.  LOL!  As tempting as fresh fruit was, I declined.  I definitely had enough food to feed an army.

The Insane Exit Along The Ridgeline Of Clouds Rest.

Moving On…

After talking, we all parted ways. The man was heading back down to Happy Isles and the couple was going to head back down to the Clouds Rest junction to camp and hike Half Dome the next day.  I on the other hand was hiking on further into the Sierras up to Sunset Lakes and then eventually on to Tuolumne Meadows… or so I thought.  As I said before, this is the day I almost quit the JMT.  You’re getting so close to finding out why.

I began the trek down the backside of Clouds Rest and almost laughed at the insane path for the exit.  Instead of climbing down a natural rock staircase similar to the one I had used to summit the mountain, I walked a tightrope thin line along the ridge of the mountain.  The feeling was exhilarating!  Sheer drops on both sides led to expansive views as far as the eye can see.  These are the moments I live for!  Soon my dirt ridge turned into a snow ridge as it traversed down the side of the mountain.  I put my microspikes back on.  This was going to take even more concentration.  Evidently, I was not concentrating enough.  Fall number one.  This would be the first of many.

Looking Back Upon The Steep Ridgeline That I Climbed Down Off Of Clouds Rest. I’m definitely Not Going Back Up!

The Beginning of the End

For the first hour, I thought the snow trek was fine or even fun but that’s where it ended.  This was the beginning of my dreaded day… the day I almost quit the JMT.  There was no trail.  I had to look at my GPS every 5 minutes in order to stay on track… and somehow I still got lost.  I couldn’t find my way back onto the trail as many times as I tried to re-calculate myself.  Strangely enough, I was basically going in circles.  What is going on?!?!  It didn’t help that my GPS would only update about every 10 to 15 minutes.  Once I finally got back on the trail, I was exhausted.  By trail, I don’t mean an actual trail.  I mean snow and lots of it.  There was no trail to be seen.  There was not an ounce of dirt.  All I had was my GPS on my phone to go by and I kept swaying to the right for some reason.  I was trying to keep myself on track, but I was exhausted.

Taking A Well Deserved Break On The John Muir Trail

The Snow, Suncups, and Tree Wells Are Getting A Bit Ridiculous.

Father and Son

As I trekked on, questioning my navigation skills, I came upon a man and his son.  The boy was probably about eight and they were hiking from the Sunset High Sierra Camp to the base of Clouds Rest.  I couldn’t believe that this little boy was hiking out here and he seemed to be so excited despite telling me that he had already fallen about fifty times.  They said they hadn’t seen anyone in two days.  I could see why.  I don’t even know why I am out here.  We compared notes on navigation, camping spots, and snow levels before we parted.  Gripping my poles, I trudged on.

I’m Not Having Fun Anymore On The John Muir Trail. I’m Over This Snow!

This is Not Fun!

I hiked as slow as a turtle, trekking on and on, wishing I was at camp.  A few hours later I was wishing I was at home.  Why am I out here?  This isn’t fun.  I know now that I am not a snow hiker.  My hips hurt.  My head hurts.  I keep falling.  At first, I thought it was funny to count how many times I had fallen but by the time I counted to 10, it wasn’t funny anymore.  I’m lucky I didn’t break an arm or leg.

Sometimes I would step into the wrong spot and I would fall deep into the snow up to my waist.  Luckily I was able to pull myself out but what if I couldn’t one time?  I tried not to think about that.  I do have my satellite emergency communicator, but the last thing I want to do is push that button.  In my everyday life I hate asking for help, but to ask someone to risk their life to save mine is something I hope will never happen.

I trekked on and on but camp never seem to get any closer.  Without snow, I would have been there hours ago.  Around 1000 feet away from my planned camp location at the middle Sunset Lake, I gave up the quest to reach it.  I could go no further.  I had no more drive.  Up ahead I found a small trickle of a creek coming from the snow and thought this would be a good spot to set up camp.  I was freezing, my toes were wet, and I just wanted to crawl into bed and cry, but I couldn’t yet.  There was still so much to do.  I set up my hammock first and crawled inside just to regain some energy.

I Quit!

While in my cocoon, I called David and then Shannon to tell them I was quitting.  I just needed a way out of here.  Getting out of here is not going be easy.  From what it looks like Tioga Pass is still closed the entire way which means I have to hike back in the direction I came from.  I’m not exactly sure how I want to hike back.  I think I’ll wait till the morning to decide.  I could hike up a little further, go past the camp I was going to stay at around Sunrise Lakes, and then turn onto the JMT at the High Sierra Camp.  Another option would be to hike back the way I came over Clouds Rest.  I’m leaning more toward heading up to the High Sierra camp, even though it would mean more snow and a longer distance.  I just hate to trudge through what I’ve already seen.  If I’m going to hike in misery, I want to at least see something new.

After wallowing in sadness for a little while I decided to make dinner; spaghetti with meat sauce.  It’s my favorite of the Mountain House meals.  That lifted my spirits a little bit.  There’s nothing like a nice warm meal when your body is tired and freezing.  I then finished setting up camp.  I put up my tarp, secured my shoes onto the ridgeline, got into my pajamas, and packed away all of my food into the bear can.  Before crawling into bed I grabbed two Advil and my Snickers bar.  Those are my nighttime treats.

Goodnight! I Quit!


I’m disgusted to say that I was so exhausted that I didn’t even bother to brush my teeth or wipe my face down… or my body for that matter.  I didn’t bother to change my underwear or take off my bra.  I just wanted to sleep.  Sluggishly, I crawled into bed and was instantly so happy… or as happy as I could be under the circumstances.  I could stay in here forever.  It took a long time for my toes to thaw but I knew they would eventually.  I love my new quilt.  It’s so fluffy and cozy.  I just curl up like a little joey in its mama’s pouch.  I love my new pillow as well, which is a little bit bigger than my last pillow, but what I love the most will always be my hammock.  Tonight it was my savior.  This is what is keeping me together.  Good night world.  I hope tomorrow brings something better.


Clouds Rest Junction to base of Cloud’s Rest

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Comments 3

  • Ian Westcott : Jul 14th

    The day you _almost_ quit! Aaaaah, I can’t wait for part 3.

    • Chana Putnam : Jul 16th

      Hopefully, I get it out soon. I’m a lot slower writing than I thought I would be. LOL! I just want to make sure I get the words just right so when I look back years from now, I’ll be able to relive that feeling again. Thanks for reading!


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